Joel Embiid put up 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 97-92 win over the Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, about on-par with his season average of 22 and 12.
But, according to former NBA big men (and current league analysts) Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, he's not doing enough.
“He’s the toughest player in the league to match up with,” Barkley said of Embiid on TNT, “but we don’t talk about him the way we talk about Luka [Doncic], Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Anthony Davis, James [Harden]. We don’t ever say that about him. It’s frustrating for me, because I picked the Sixers to get to the finals. They ain't got no chance.”
Shaq followed through with similar comments.
"We’re telling you, ‘You can be great. You ain’t playing hard enough.’ Twenty-two ain’t enough to get you to the next level,” O’Neal said. “Do you want to be great or do you want to be good? If you want to be good, keep doing 22 points. You want to be great, give me 28, give me 30. You want to be great, watch Giannis — he wants to be great.”
In their minds, there's a hunger and passion missing in Embiid that other stars seem to have. Is he just not skilled enough? Is he not trying on the court? Does he just not care?
Whatever the case, Embiid is set on trying to prove everyone wrong this season. But if he wants to lead his team to an NBA Finals berth this spring, he will have to be the star his team needs him to be. He needs to score 30 instead of 22.